The African Parks Network (APN) has recently signed a joint management agreement with Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for the management of Akagera in Rwanda. My partner and I are now based in Akagera working for the project.
The Dubai World agreement fell through when it could not honor its commitments to Akagera and African Parks had had discussions with RDB in 2007, previous to Dubai World coming in, so in 2009 RDB asked African Parks back to reconsider the partnership.
The agreement was signed in December last year and a joint management company has been formed ‘Akagera Management Company’ which has board representation from both APN and RDB. The project is for an initial 20 years and funding is secured of US$1.35 million on average per year for the first 5 years.
Among the plans for the park is the construction of the western boundary fence which has been on the cards for sometime. RDB and the contractors are about to sign the contact and the project is expected to start immediately afterwards, beginning with the transportation of equipment and supplies. The whole fence is expected to take a year to complete.
A priority for us is to secure the park, the extent of poaching in Akagera is horrific. A one hour patrol produced 27 snares in an area very close to the headquarters and as well as several reports of snared animals, 4 hippo carcasses were discovered in the last week. If this is what we are seeing then these figures must be multiplied many more times to get any where near the true extent of the problem. With increased motivation and better resources, communication and transport we hope to be able to combat much of this. Having come from Majete Wildlife Reserve and seen what African Parks has been able to accomplish there, I am confident that we can start seeing immediate results, particularly from law enforcement, under this new management agreement. Three more vehicles are expected to arrive this week and new 5 boats are on order to begin patrolling in the river and lakes system.
Once the park is secure and the fence complete, we will start the restocking programme to reintroduce lion and black rhino to Akagera, and to Rwanda.
A lot of work needs to be done in terms of road maintenance and signage as well as complete upgrades of the tourist facilities including the campsites and reception areas. There are already parties interested in the development of lodges or camps in the park which will provide alternative accommodation to the current Akagera Game Lodge – which by the way is privately owed and not under the management of APN.
Behind the scenes, we will be building and renovating existing structures for parks staff, rangers etc. which has already begun. Plans for this year also include the construction of a new office block and a workshop for effective onsite management, at present everything is outsourced. With these developments will also come employment of local people, we expect to have a labour force of 150 permanent employees at least for the first year and many more casual labourers for slashing fire breaks and assisting in the eradication of the invasive Dichrostachys which has all but taken over the savannah grassland in the Giraffe Area growing into impenetrable thickets.
I hope that we can meet next time you are in Akagera and that the changes will be evident!
I look forward to keeping you updated,